Technology shapes society and societal and cultural norms influence current and future technological advances. At least, that is the thought that comes to mind when I think of technology’s role in society through the lens of history.
The history lens tells how technology influenced jobs, development, and everything else we interact with in our lives. For example, writing instruments have evolved throughout history and play a significant role in communication and record-keeping.
The earliest form of writing started around 3400 BC in Sumer, employing clay for tablets and reed pens, and around the same time, the Egyptians developed a form of writing using hieroglyphics (Brown, 2021). Writing methods continued to influence societies throughout history, and, in turn, society influenced the development of more sophisticated writing methods.
Between the 6th and mid-19th centuries, the feather pen was “the principal writing instrument” (Britannica, 1998). According to Pencils.com, earlier writing instruments were made of lead. However, the discovery of graphite, a mineral that leaves darker marks than lead, in 1564 England facilitated the development of the modern pencil (n.d.).
When the war with England cut off imports into the US, William Monroe invented the first American wooden pencil in 1812 (Pencils.com).
Later, towards the end of the 19th century, the American pencil industry rose when manufacturers like The Joseph Dixon Crucible Company began producing pencils, making them a common item in schools and households.
Shortly after, the ballpoint pen became mainstream, and the first pens were sold for $12.50, the equivalent of $195 in 2022.
The digital age further transformed writing instruments to new limits. For some, computer editing programs and grammar-checking software have advantages over older writing instruments because of their additional functionality and the problems they solve in today’s fast-paced society. The ballpoint pen still has its place in society, but software has influenced data in more ways than any predominant writing instrument.
According to Aparavi, an exponential trend shows that 90% of all data was created in the last two years, revealing the digital age’s significance on society through the history lens.
How does analyzing the relationship between history, culture, and technology influence our personal experiences?
The Sumerians used simple writing instruments for government and financial records and tales. More advanced writing instruments, such as iron gall ink, helped create the constitution of the United States, but the writing instruments for that time did not produce a document free from grammar and spelling errors.
Unlike traditional writing methods, software tools provide grammar checks, continue to transform record keeping and support the creation of big data.
The relationship between history, culture, and technology influences my personal experience as a user of technology. It is sometimes challenging to grasp that today’s sophisticated technology started from simple instruments and humble beginnings.
Analyzing technology through the history lens makes it easy to learn how technology developed into what it is today. The relationship between history, technology, and society also sheds light on how technology influences society and vice versa.